By Collin Dalley
Meeker, Colorado is well known for its beautiful scenery, large populations of elk and excellent trout fishing. Adams Lodge Outfitters operates in the Flattop Wilderness area of the White River Forest in northwest Colorado and offers some of the most breathtaking scenery surrounded by mountains, wildlife and exceptional fishing and hunting. If you want to explore this scenic backcountry of Colorado, then Adams Lodge Outfitters is your ticket. They’re a horse-based operation, meaning everything you do will start and end on a horse. They can pack your gear in and drop it off, while you journey into the backcountry. Specifically, they specialize in pack trips for Colorado’s GMU 24, just outside of Meeker, Colorado. Their area encompasses the Marvine Drainage and Marvine Lake area.
On our trip we started the day off by meeting our guide and owner, Bruce Clatterbaugh at his home where we watched Bruce and his guides round up our horses for the trip. I think it’s safe to say, Adams Lodge Outfitters has no shortage of horses that are some of the gentlest, most well-behaved horses I have ever been around in my many travels. I was lucky enough to take my wife and in-laws on this trip with me and even though we have spent time around horses in past years, we definitely are not experts by any means. Needless to say, no one had any trouble on the entire trip. Overall, Adams Lodge provides a way to experience Colorado’s backcountry that is perfect for the entire family.
Our job at Sportsman’s News is to visit and evaluate quality outfitters for our readers to provide not only great stories, but hopefully the perfect outfitter and destination for the trip of a lifetime. On our trip we were lucky enough to experience the Marvine Drainage Lakes first hand. This beautiful area can’t be described by words or pictures alone and is definitely something everyone needs to experience first-hand.
The horseback ride was fun and picturesque. Upon arrival at upper Marvine Lake, we found that Adams Lodge had a permitted camp site already set up with spacious wall tents, sleeping cots with pads and a full cook tent with everything needed to enjoy our time in the wilderness. With different packages to choose from, guests can bring their own food and schedule a time for their guide to pick them up after a few days of relaxing and fishing or have Adams Lodge provide you with an onsite wrangler and camp cook, including food, drinks and all camp equipment. Just bring your fishing gear, bedroll and you’re set. Bruce and his crew have even packed in small rowboats for guests to use on upper Marvine Lake, which offers non-stop action for brook trout, cutthroat trout and the occasional brown trout.
Along with fishing, this area is known for its abundant wildlife, especially elk as well as plenty of fantastic hiking opportunities.
Trips typically run 3-4 days with the option to add as many days as desired. Adams Lodge Outfitters will not double book the camp, so you can be assured of a comfortable and private trip with friends and family.
The Upper Marvine Lake provides great fly-fishing with its crystal clear water and abundant fish. I always enjoy fishing high mountain lakes because the fish typically have had less pressure and will look at dry flies all day. Using large top water flies, such as grasshoppers is so much fun and it’s easy to keep an eye on your fly as you wait in anticipation for the take.
On this trip I brought along my St. Croix 9’ 4wt Imperial fly rod. Its 4-piece design is compact and ideal for horseback trips and still allows me to make a longer cast for fish lurking in shallow, clear water without spooking them. I typically use anywhere from 8-10ft of leader to ensure I don’t alarm any fish with my fly line on these clear water lakes. As we arrived at camp, everything was already set up, so we decided to take a short walk to the lake and use one of the rowboats.
It only took a couple of casts to catch our first fish, a nice 13-inch brook trout. As we rowed along the shore we saw fish after fish actively feeding on the surface. Almost every cast produced a take as fish could be seen surfacing seemingly everywhere. We continued to catch more fish than we could count and as nighttime approached, we headed back to camp where the guys from Adams Lodge Outfitters were busy cooking up some steaks and potatoes for dinner.
The timing of our visit was in July, when the temperature for most of the southwest is reaching around 100 degrees. Our temperatures were in the mid-70’s during the day and cooled off at night to a perfect temperature, ideal for sitting around the campfire. As we retired to our personal wall tents, we anxiously waited for morning to arrive, so we could do it all over again. After a good night’s rest, we partook of a great hi-mountain breakfast and headed back out on the lake to fish.
With another beautiful day forecasted with plenty of sun and mild temps, we found that the fish were again actively feeding. After catching numerous fish, we noticed one fish in particular. It was a big cutthroat, which would rise to the surface occasionally as insects landed on the water. After setting my sights on this trophy, we waited for him to reveal himself so I could try and make that perfect presentation.
Finally I spotted him hiding behind a boulder in the water. I gently eased my grasshopper in his direction and the presentation was perfect! I knew he saw it. The water forms a ‘V” as he swims towards my fly, with great anticipation I’m waiting for this magnificent cutthroat to surface, but he suddenly stops a couple feet short as if to examine it. I twitch my hopper a couple times to try and entice him to bite and it appears to work as he creeps closer and closer. Now with him only inches from the bait, I’m trying to stay steady. Wary of making his move he instead just stares at my fly, trying to decide whether to eat or not. After what felt like the longest stare down between my fly and this fish, the cutthroat slowly swims away, back behind the security of his boulder.
I retrieve my fly, trying to figure out what just happened. I knew the fish was interested and apparently still hungry, as I catch a glimpse of him breaking the surface for a bug on the water. It was obvious this big cutthroat was a picky eater on a strict diet. Now matching the hatch is important to catching fish, but occasionally you can find a fly pattern that makes no sense at all, yet you are able to catch more fish than your buddy who is actually using the pattern or fly that represents the insect hatch. Looking through my fly box I didn’t have anything to match this small midge hatch and yet I knew this fish was interested in my hopper, but something was stopping him from taking it.
I knew that when I twitched it across the water, the fish was attracted to the grasshopper. I debated whether to use a larger blue winged olive or try again with my special foam bodied grasshopper I had tied last summer as an experiment. It has at least 10 legs and when it is twitched across the water the rubber legs come to life and look like something swimming across the surface.
I decided to give it a try; it was about 1-inch long and definitely a big fly when it comes to fishing high mountain lakes. As I presented my cast, I sent the fly a little further away from the fish in hopes the big splash wouldn’t scare him off. I was going to slowly retrieve it with little twitches past the boulder and try to entice my finned prey. As the hopper approached the boulder, I gave my line a short but quick pull to make it splash on the water. That splash got his full attention and like a torpedo the cutthroat exploded from the shadows and came out of the water with my fly in its mouth. I delayed the hook set until I felt a slight tension on the line to ensure a good hook-up and the fight was on. After getting a great fight on my 4-wt., I released an extremely healthy, 18” Colorado cutthroat back into the water to live another day.
With so many options to accommodate your outdoor activities, Adams Lodge Outfitters can help take the work out of the do-it-yourself trip. With camps set up that are ready to go and multiple large canvas tents, cots and your own cook tent, just bring your gear, sleeping bag and they will cover the rest. If you like the idea of the do-it-yourself trip from hunting to fishing then they have you covered too. Pick your favorite place and they will pack everything in for you, including your entire group. With over 40 horses to choose from, Adams Lodge Outfitters will simplify your trip. Whether its elk hunting or fishing high mountain lakes & streams, you can count on Adams Lodge Outfitters to get the job done.
With flights available into Grand Junction, Colorado, located just an 1-hour and 40 minute drive from Meeker, Colorado, you can find daily flights from a variety of major airlines, making travel extremely simple and convenient. If you’re looking to experience the Colorado backcountry and all it has to offer, give them a call today to talk about all of the possibilities. We hope to get back this fall to experience the hunting side of things. They offer archery, muzzleloader and all three rifle seasons. We’re happy to welcome Adams Lodge Outfitters as one of our valued Platinum Approved Outfitters. 907-878-4312 and visit them on the web at www.adamslodgeoutfitters.com.